Michgian Football Team 1879 | gobluefootballhistory.com M Go Blue Football | Michigan Wolverine Football History

July 4, 2019 Happy Birthday Anniversary William Hannan

Posted on July 3, 2019 by Barry Gallagher

Today is a great day to celebrate the happy birthday anniversary of a Michigan Man named William Hannan. William Washington Hannan was born on this date in 1854 at Rochester, New York. Hannan was one of the original thirteen lettermen who played on Team #1 back in 1879. He died on December 24, this date in 1917 at the age of sixty-three years old.

Note – William Hannan is shown above with the 1879 Michigan Football team. He is standing in the back row – second man from the left (with arms folded). Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

Part I. Wolverine of the Day: William Hannan

A True “Pigskin Pioneer” in 1879

William Hannan grew up in Dowagiac, Michigan. He was matriculating on the Michigan campus in 1879 when he joined what I call the “Pigskin Pioneers.” Racine College in Racine, Wisconsin had issued a challenge to Michigan’s Football Association in October of 1878, but Michigan didn’t really have an organized team at that point. Some “football” games were being played on campus, but they were more “intramural” in nature. Up to that time, all football games had taken place on the Ann Arbor campus as “class vs class” matches. The proposed contest between Racine and Michigan would be in Chicago.

William Hannan 1879 | bigbluefootballhistory.com

William Hannan, played on Team # 1 in 1879. He went on to become a very successful real estate developer in New York. Photo courtesy of the Wikipedia Foundation.

The members of Michigan’s Football Association voted to accept Racine’s challenge on the condition that the game be played in the spring of 1879. This would allow the association sufficient time to organize and train the team. Michigan’s first captain, Dave DeTar, played a key role in gathering and training the candidates for Team #1. Lots of details had to be worked out before the actual game was played, but it did happen on that historic day – May 30, 1879.

Apparently, William Hannan was quite athletic and he had some speed. He probably didn’t know much about the new game of football, but he signed up to be part of the action. Eventually, he would play “rusher” in that first game.

A Historic First Game

In May 1979, Captain DeTar took his team to Chicago for Michigan’s first intercollegiate football game. The Chicago Daily Tribune called it the “first rugby-football game… west of the Alleghenies.” The Wolverines made the trip count! The men from Michigan left Chicago with their first victory in their first intercollegiate game. Final score: Wolverines 1 and Purple Stockings 0. Scoring was a lot different in those days, but Captain DeTar made a successful place kick and Michigan had the point they needed for the win.

Michigan’s footballers played a second game in season #1, but that one was in November of 1979. The game was played in Detroit against Toronto. The game ended in a tie (0-0) and that was the end of Michigan’s first foray into the new game of college “football.”

Some Interesting Michigan Football “Firsts”

So, William is connected to a number of very important firsts in the distinguished history of Michigan Football.

  • William Hannan was one of the first thirteen men to play football at Michigan.
  • Hannan played in the first game against Racine on May 30, 1879.
  • William Hannan was one of the first thirteen men to earn a varsity football letter at Michigan in 1879.

Today is a good day to honor the memory of a Michigan Man and appreciate his contributions to Michigan football. William W. Hannan was there for the start of Michigan’s long, and successful, football history. He played in both games in 1879 and is pictured with the thirteen lettermen on that inaugural team. William Hannan was a true “pigskin pioneer.” Thank you, for men like William Hannan. He helped get the “ball” rolling in Ann Arbor. Now, one-hundred and thirty-eight years later, it is still going STRONG! May William W. Hannan always rest in eternal peace. Go Blue!

To read more about William Hannan life after football check out the links below:




Part II. July 4, 2019 National Day Calendar Update – Happy Independence Day Everyone – Be safe and enjoy your freedom!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *